The Lovell Sisters
Sisters of reinvention
by Whit Hill
I think I want to play the bassoon. Really, really well. I know, everyone says it's one of the hardest instruments to play, but I figure if I make a plan and stick to it-you know, maybe start with some DVDs, take some lessons with experienced bassoon players, then practice till my lips curl up and fall off-I can go pro in a few years. You know, win competitions. Tour Europe. Give up my day job. Hey, if the Lovell Sisters can do it?
Okay, to be fair, Jessica, Megan, and Rebecca Lovell, sisters from Calhoun, Georgia, began studying classical violin and piano when they were five years old (not that long ago, really). They sang in the church choir. They played in ensembles. They worked hard and had talent. Then, in early adolescence, they heard a recording by bluegrass artist Jerry Douglas. The album was Slide Rule, and it pretty much derailed their focus on classical music. In 2003 they headed off to their first bluegrass jam and decided to pick new instruments, in much the same way that other teens choose cell phone colors. Megan, inspired by Douglas, picked the resophonic guitar. Rebecca started learning banjo and mandolin. And Jessica made the somewhat more attitudinal switch from violin to fiddle.
In 2004, the Lovell Sisters Band made its debut performance at the Signal Mountain Opry in Chattanooga. In 2005 the sisters appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and won the show's renowned Teen Talent Competition. They also released their first album, When Forever Rolls Around. In 2006 Rebecca, at fifteen, won the MerleFest mandolin competition-the youngest competitor and first female to do so. The band toured twenty-one states.
You get the idea. It's all because of planning. And talent and heart.
In performance, the Lovell Sisters impress not only with their graceful, powerful musicianship but also with an utterly relaxed stage presence that belies their youth. Center stage and handling most of the lead singing is Jessica Lovell,
who delivers a full-throated recklessness in a voice with a pop edge. Megan and Rebecca join in with special sister-harmony sauce. Rebecca, the youngest, pens most of the group's originals. She says she's never had a boyfriend, but her words speak knowingly of heartbreak, wistfulness, loss, and love.
Worried about the youth of America? All that texting while driving? All that moral decay? Fear not: the Lovell Sisters bring a message of hope. That you will one day play the bassoon.
The Lovell Sisters Band comes to the Ark on Thursday, October 30 (see Nightspots)
[Originally published in October, 2008.]